|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
'There is something very powerful about India'
Archana Masih | March 08, 2004 12:49 IST
"My life in India changed in 1968," Jane Fonda told rediff.com in an exclusive interview at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai on Monday.
"Maybe it is in the air, or in the light or in the atmosphere. There is something very powerful about India," the Oscar -winning actress (Klute in 1971 and Coming Home in 1979), who is in India to perform in The Vagina Monologues said.
"If a human being is at a time of your life for change," she said, "India is a good place to come because it helps you move to the second step whatever it is going to be. For me it was very positive."
Marisa Tomei (Best Supporting Actress in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny) looked radiant in a magenta beaded blouse -- her first buy in India -- and said India was a place she was still discovering.
"I have friends to visit in Delhi and Bombay -- excuse me Mumbai. I did The Guru and have worked with Mira Nair, so I have friends to catch up with. It's a privilege to see a culture through the eyes of the people who live here and hang out with them," she said speaking exclusively to rediff.com
Tomei, who will be 40 this December 4, was the first celebrity to be approached by playwright Eve Ensler and first performed in The Vagina Monologues six years ago.
She says her interest with the cause began when V-Day didn't exist. V-Day as in Victory, Valentine and Vagina.
"What really drew me was the writing -- the art of it and expressing it. I am an actress, because that is the way I express myself and my heart and soul. That's the way I learn about the world and transform," said Tomei (right) who will appear in a play on Broadway shortly.
"I felt the material [of the play] drew me in that way. It was something I wanted to express and there were things that I wanted to understand and change in my own life. And it became a movement."
Actor-activist Fonda, 67, became involved with V-Day three years ago and later told the media that when she was first asked to act in the play, this was her reaction: 'After reading three pages, I said no, I have enough problems!'
"I then saw Eve perform in New York and I realised that the play helps men and women experience humanity. The Vagina Monologues has changed my life and I want to spread the message."
Fonda said her message to women in India, USA or anywhere was the same.
"You have the right to be safe. You have the right to own your own body. It is sacred, you have the right to honour it and demand that other people honour it too. No one has the right to make you do anything against your wishes," she told rediff.com
Speaking at a press conference later on Monday, Fonda said she was married thrice, was successful, had money but she had silenced her voice to please the men in her life.
"It took me 60 years to realise that I was a feminist and all my life I was pleasing men."
Giving a description of feminism that would send many men reeling, Fonda said, "The best men in the world are feminists. There is a wholeness, the capacity to live full lives."
She explained if men and women understood feminism they would realise that it meant being a whole person, irrespective of gender.
A very lively Ensler, referred to Fonda (below, left) and Tomei as the heart of the movement. A Buddhist, and the adoptive parent of television star Dylan McDermott (The Practice), she added that she had travelled through 50 countries in the last five years and the degree of which women were abused was obscene.
"If this global dishonouring of life continues, it will destroy future species."
"I tell people, what is shocking about vaginas? We all pass through them, they are the centre of our being -- what's shocking is how we hurt them. Men will hold them sacred themselves because you can't violate a woman and not damage your own self. Vaginas are beautiful. I am blessed to have one," Ensler said.
Somalia-born, Washington-based Hibaaq Osman, who is V-Day's special representative and is involved in women's rights issues, complimented the extraordinary women [actors of the stature] like Fonda and Tomei for telling ordinary stories.
Tomei clarified that she wasn't certain if her support for V-Day had affected her career.
"But it has affected me. I don't think everyone has to speak out. It's about personal choice. There is a stigma to the word 'feminist', we are trying to change that. It's important not be afraid -- that's what changes things."
Photographs: Jewella C Miranda